Compostable, Biodegradable & Degradable, what’s the difference?
A topic we get asked a lot about here at EcoVibe is the difference between how certain items degrade, how it affects the environment and what it means for the products you buy.
We’ve put our heads together and written a mini guide to the differences between biodegradable, compostable and degradable products.
Here’s what the different terms mean for the environment, and, if you are super eco-conscious, how you can make sure you’re buying the right stuff!
Something is compostable if it is capable of disintegrating into all-natural elements in a compost environment, such as your garden compost heap or an industrial compost site. When the item is fully composted, it will have left no toxic residue in the soil.
The time it takes to compost will depend on the conditions it’s degrading in and on the product itself. Things like the correct temperature, the right amount of oxygen and moisture within the heap. To pass the EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste’s tests, the material must industrially compost within 12 weeks, but it can take much longer in home composting.
One thing to note though - compostable items must be composted and not just put in with your black bins. As we said, these items need warmth, air and moisture to compost… Something that landfills lack! Fear not - most councils have industrial waste systems designed to break down your compostable waste, or you can make your own compost at home.
Biodegradation is like composting in some ways, but it is still a bit different. If something is biodegradable it means that it breaks down into natural materials in the environment.
Naturally biodegradable products and substances will also seamlessly re-enter the earth in the natural environment. However, they’ll take a little longer than compostable materials, again, depending on temperature and moisture. This time, the EU says it should biodegrade within six months.
Things that naturally biodegrade include plant products, leaves, food waste, wood, paper, grass clippings, human and animal waste and the remains of deceased critters!
In a sense everything is degradable, you just need to give it enough time. But the manner in which many things degrade can be very harmful to the environment. For example, pesky plastics. Plastics will degrade, but over the course of hundreds if not thousands of years. They continuously break down into smaller pieces when subject to the elements.
Eventually, they will become microplastics and end up in our oceans and waterways if they haven’t already. So, it’s really important to draw the distinction between things that degrade naturally, and things that don’t. Paper does, plastic does not.
Still not quite sure?
Check out our handy infographic
Compostable dog poop bags vs degradable
That moves us on nicely to talk about compostable vs ‘degradable’ poop bags. Most dog poop bags are made from traditional carrier bag plastic that degrades at an incredibly slow rate. If you put it in the dog poo bin down the park it’ll probably end up in landfill. That poop bag will be around for years to come, which is a distressing thought!
If you choose an eco-friendly alternative, such as a poop bag that’s compostable and plastic free (like ours!), you’re taking a huge step towards reducing your plastic usage. Especially if you take your pooch for a walk once a day, every day, that’s a lot of poop and a lot of poop bags! A compostable dog poop bag will break down in a compost pile, leave no toxins behind and do no damage to its surrounding environment. It really is the green choice!